Stop Phishing Attacks – Harness The Power of Your Human Sensor Network

By Malcolm Orekoya, Senior Technical Consultant at Network Utilities

MalcolmViews expressed in this post are original thoughts posted by Malcolm Orekoya. These views are his own and in no way do they represent the views of the company.

In the security world the ability of any system to proactively or reactively deal with a security threat is highly reliant on the systems sensors, that is, the ability for the systems to detect threats. This detection process can be based on a myriad of characteristics, heuristics, behaviours etc. that make it possible for the system to differentiate between what is normal and what is abnormal in the context of the type of traffic that system processes on a daily basis. Once the threat is detected the system can then react to it by performing some sort of mitigating action.

The success of security initiatives relies on the implementation of layered security defences, and at a high level the major layers of infrastructure networks most widely considered are the endpoint (or host) layer, the application layer and the network layer. All the detection systems such as firewalls, intrusion preventions systems (IPS), distributed denial of services (DDoS) systems, anti-virus, web application firewalls (WAF) etc. deployed at these layers rely on early detection of abnormal activity in order to function optimally. But why is the human layer seldom considered when it comes to detecting abnormal behaviour on the network? Especially when it pertains to the type of threats that specifically target human vulnerabilities, such as malware, advanced persistent threats (APT) and phishing.

The one constant factor that exists at all currently considered layers of security is the human element. It is often said that humans can be the weakest part of any security system and this can be, for example, because people are capable of making configuration mistakes. So to counter this, training is provided to individuals who manage these systems in order to minimise the risk of such mistakes. However training is seldom considered to educate people on how to detect abnormal activities in their interactions with day to day systems such as emails, browsers and websites. How does an employee detect the difference between an email with a legitimate attachment and a malicious one? Or a legitimate website and a phishing website? Education is the answer; or rather Educate, Test, Review, Repeat might be a better sequence of activities to combat this.

The idea here is to educate people on these threats and its various guises, test their understanding and responses to the education, review the results of such tests and then repeat the entire cycle periodically over and over again. Do not simply assume that everyone within your organisation should know how to spot and react to phishing attacks. We assume most people that work within the IT team do but it is easy to fall victim to what are nowadays very sophisticated and deceptive phishing attacks.

From a defence in depth security perspective, the end goal here is to cover all bases by creating a human sensor network within your organisation, where the human element becomes an integrated part of your security systems sensors ability to detect threats. In many cases we already enable people to become part of the organisations security alert system, for example, in offices where an unrecognised person can be stopped by anyone, anywhere within the office premises if they are walking around without an identification badge visibly displaying who they are.

Over the last couple of years there have been numerous publications that have highlighted that the wide spread infection of endpoint devices by malware and growth in cyber espionage have increasingly featured phishing. This is due in part to the lack of effective awareness and training being provided to the humans that are essentially the first point of attack for phishing activity. By transforming this first point of attack into an effective detection sensor you are creating a network of human sensors, which can hugely reduce the number of people that fall victim and subsequently reduce the success percentage of phishing campaigns. Usually in a more cost effective and efficient manner than most other technologies out there.

Want to know more? Please get in touch via info@netutils.com and visit http://www.netutils.com/phish5.php to find out how proactive user security training can help you stay protected.

About Malcolm
As Senior Technical Presales Consultant at Network Utilities Malcolm consults and advises on specialist IT Networking, Security and Service Management requirements.

Phishing- Are you ready to be caught out?

By Anthony Mortimer, Account Manager, Netutils

AnthonyMortimerViews expressed in this post are original thoughts posted by Anthony Mortimer. These views are his own and in no way do they represent the views of the company.

In the age of commercialised hacking, organisations are experiencing greater frequency and sophistication of attacks than ever before, this is driven simply by the commercial value corporate data represents to criminals. According to Trend Micro 90% of all known successful data breaches in 2012/2013 were attributed to Phishing attacks.

At Netutils we see and talk to a broad range of organisations all with very different views to the risk these threats pose. For many smaller organisations the presence of a firewall and basic security is seen as sufficient; but here’s why these smaller businesses should be concerned.

For a start criminals are now regularly targeting suppliers or customers of big organisations as the staging point to attack the bigger network. More importantly we are seeing a trend for large businesses to dictate security policy to their suppliers for them to continue to trade with them or to win new contracts.

A significant growth area is in the use of targeted Phishing emails and more focussed spear phishing attacks tailored to specific individuals based on pharmed data. These types of attacks are becoming more difficult to mitigate against putting significant stresses on IT department’s budgets.

We have witnessed organisations handling these threats with 2 broad methodologies:

  • Deployment of technology to counteract attacks
  • End user training

It is generally accepted that by far the greatest risk to the security of your corporate data are your employees themselves who may unwittingly fall victim to phishing attacks. According to industry figures 60% of UK office workers receive a Phishing email at least once a day. In addition the greatest issue with regards to end user training is that for most organisations it is difficult to deliver such a course in a way that will make a real difference. Businesses will often run a single awareness session and hope that will mitigate the risk. Unfortunately Phishing attacks are dynamic, although they follow a similar pattern the content and mechanisms change, unless staff are made aware of these on a regular basis the training deployed may only have value for a few weeks after delivery until a new form of attack is devised.

The second method of combating these threats is via the deployment of technology, this poses real issues to businesses and it can be argued many traditional signature based solutions offer little real protection. This is essentially because they rely on a known database of attack signatures to spot and block an attack. However with the rise in commercial hacking activities self-service malware portals can provide the enterprising hacker with a unique piece of malware for as little as $100 that can sit undetected on corporate machines, up until it is discovered and the signature published.

At Netutils we believe that effective mitigation requires a layered approach to handling these issues. At the heart of our solution set are 2 key elements: ongoing security training via our interactive training platform (PhishAware) and cutting edge signature less technology.

If you have any concerns about the impact of Phishing in your business then do please contact a solutions expert from our team on:

t: 020 8783 3800
e: info@netutils.com

PhishAwareTrial

 

 

Think Before You Link: 3 Tips to help educate your employees on the dangers of Phishing attacks

Take your pick – GameOver Zeus, CryptoLocker, Dyreza or Dyre – they are all out there and the weakest link to your organisation is your employees. Take a look at our short video blog for some hints and tips to keep your network protected through employee awareness and education.